The Hand That Wouldn't Go Away
Janice had been an artist as long as she could remember. She had those refined skills that no future artist could ever achieve. Although, it wasn't a competition. But for others, it might sound like it. Like one of her cheerleader days, that she fought against some Wanna-Be cheerleader, and she had won the game. It was a contest all right, or it used to be. That's how the high-school saying goes. Competition didn't matter at all. His mother used to say that, and Janice had listened to her.
Janice and her husband, Terry just bought a house near the big lake. It was a great view, and the opportunity for Janice to paint all day long. But she didn't plan to paint outside. Oh no. She planned to paint her work in the big, spacious room, the so-called studio. The real estate agent had said, "It's big, Mrs. Winchester. So big that you can put your thing on it. You know what I'm saying?" Terry had laughed out loud at the joke, but Janice looked at him. He had stopped laughing since then.
The Winchesters reached the house. It was a cold, October day and the season for kids to go out, and grab their candies whenever they can. But it wasn't that time yet. She remembered that tradition a long time back, when she was a kid. Now, her Halloween days were over.
They went inside the house, grabbing a couple of things from their SUV. Janice had to bring art materials to paint her latest work, but it wasn't finished yet. Her gallery owner, Mike kept calling her, and asked, "Is it done yet?" It sounded like, when the kids in the backseat of a family car, asked the same, old question, "Are we there yet?" Janice was so tired of hearing it, over and over again.
But she did answer him anyways. What choice did she have? There was no way of knowing when she could finish her work. It might take days, or even weeks to make it 100% complete. So, that the critics from around the world would love it, and say, "Wow, Janice. I've never seen anything so beautiful in my life. Janice, you must call me. I have my own gallery, you know. You can ditch Mike here, and come with me. Janice, you certainly have great tastes. What made you paint it by the way?” All these possible criticisms, and comments were crashing down inside her head. But they may not be true at all. They probably have to see the painting for themselves, and she has to hear it from them, physically, not mentally.
It was a huge painting all right. Terry helped Janice to carry it on both sides. Besides, she didn't want to drop it. It was hard work, and it took ages to paint the picture. But she had to know when it can be finished. Besides, art wasn't that easy. Her friends used to say, "Oh Janice, we can draw anything we want. I think the art teacher won't mind." But for Janice, she had to use her creativity in order to paint the picture right. It takes time and effort to do so. And any artist would have to use wild imagination to make their style perfect. If not, drawing or painting anything was not art. Not at all.
The couple managed to bring the painting to the studio. It still looked empty, and Janice was glad for it. If there was anything in the room, before they bought the house, it would be hard for her and Terry to bring the painting inside.
"Careful, Terry," Janice said all of a sudden, when she saw something on the window. She couldn't make anything of it. Not yet. Because she was too busy focusing on her lovely painting, and that she had to be careful of not dropping it by accident.
Terry sighed. He knew that Janice was obsessed over her painting, ever since she started it. After all, it was her life's work. He understood that passion. But the obsession was a bit too much for his taste.
"Don't worry, honey," Terry said. "I'm still here, holding it. It's not going to..." He paused and looked at the window. "What is that?"
Janice shouted, "Terry! Watch the painting!" But Terry didn't listen to her. No, he just noticed something smeared on the window. But he couldn't tell whether it was the inside or the outside. He finally came to his senses, and realized that the painting almost slipped his fingers. Janice looked at him coldly.
"Oh honey," Terry said. "I must be out of my mind. That..." He tried not to look at the horrible sight on the window. But he did it anyways "It's..." He paused again, trying to make an excuse for his distraction. "It's that hand."
Janice tried to look over her shoulder. Of course, she had seen it already. But it was only for a few seconds, and that she didn't realize it was a hand . She told Terry to grab the painting tightly, and put it down on the floor slowly, behind the wall.
"Phew!" Terry said, breathing hard and feeling relieved, now that the heavy lifting work was over. "That was heavy, honey." He came closer to the window, and stared at the hand. Janice followed along.
"Jesus Christ, Terry," Janice said. "What's that smell?" Terry said, "I don't know, honey. Oh God..." Yep, he did smell it all right. It smelled like... Poop.
Terry immediately went to the bathroom. Janice tried to find something to cover her mouth. But there wasn't anything in the big studio room. Not yet, anyways. She followed her husband.
Janice had used one of those nose strips, so that she can clean the poop-smeared hand off. At first, when she came to the room, and saw the mysterious hand on the window, she thought it looked like mud, and that someone must have pulled a dirty prank. But it didn't seem like it. After all, she and Terry didn't have kids yet. So, the possible explanation was that it could be that some outsider, who did it before they even reached the house.
After she cleaned the hand stain on the inside window, she came to the bathroom, and washed her hands with soap. Her phone rang a couple of times. It must be Mike. She sighed.
She picked up her phone, and said, "Hello Mike. What's up?"
"Is it done yet?" Mike said the same thing as usual. Janice sighed again.
"Listen, Mike," Janice said, wanting to smack his face on the other line. "I've just got here. Okay? I still have work to do."
Mike knew this was coming for him, but he was way too excited about her work. After all, he had seen her work, and it gained positive reviews from the art critics. How could he help it?
"I'm sorry, Janice," Mike said. "I'm just excited. That's all. I couldn't wait to see it, after you've done. Besides, you're the greatest artist there is. You take my breath..."
Janice stopped him, feeling that this conversation might go too far, even for a gallery owner like Mike. "Okay, Mike. I know. Thanks for the compliment." There was a moment of silence. Then she said, "Anything else I should know?"
"Well..." Mike said. He didn't want to say this, but he said it anyway. "Your mother just called, and she was wondering if you're still drawing the same stuff."
Janice sighed. She knew this would be coming for her, now that her mother was involved. That same stuff wasn't the same art, that she always paints. No, it was the nudity, and that her mother didn't approve it, because she was religious.
"Oh great!" Janice said. "Just great. Why would she call you?" She was surprised that her mother had spoken to Mike.
Mike was silent, and then said, "I don't know, Janice. But you know that your mother is part of that Christian Life Association, where they don't approve things like what you do for a living. That's how it goes, I guess."
Janice knew the association all right, and that her mother was part of it, as long as she remembers. Since she was a teenager, her mother tried to force her to join the organization, because she and her Christian followers were planning to ban anything that was considered sinful. But Janice never listened. She had her own life to fulfill her dreams, even the first time that she met Terry at the art gallery, which was held in Paris. It was a big gallery, and the moment to shine for her artistic career. She understood her mother's religious upbringing. But she wished that she wouldn't poke things around, and tell creative artists like her, what to paint, and what not to paint.
"Okay, Mike," Janice said, and sighed again. "Thanks." She ended the call. Then, she went back to the studio, and gasped.
It was a long day for Janice. She was so tired that she couldn't even sleep. After the call with Mike, she hoped to continue working on her latest painting. But the mysterious hand was still smeared on the inside window. She felt like this was one of those problems, where she could deal with it, and ask God for help. But she wasn't doing the Lord's work. No, sir. That's what her mother had said from the very beginning, when she found out that her own daughter was doing something very sinful, and that Janice argued about it day and night, non-stop.
Terry slept very deeply. His snores were starting to crack Janice up. As if that wasn't enough, she can still smell the hand, coming from her studio. She never thought the smell of a single hand could be so strong that it can travel to their bedroom, even though the door was closed. Great! Now what am I going to do? Janice felt sick. She took out a fresh nose strip, and place it on her bridge. She hoped the smell wouldn't bother her sleep, because she needed to wake up in the morning, and continue her work. But not being able to breathe properly was bad enough for her to try to sleep at this time of night. So, she got up from the bed, restless, and threw the darn thing off from her nose. She had never been so angry in her life, that this could happen. She felt like God was punishing her for doing a sinful thing. A person has to earn a living with passion and respect, and that counts, not the sin. She tried to remember that very well.
But remember not, Janice decided to go back to the studio, and deal with the poop situation. As funny as it sounds, she remembered correctly that she used to play with her own poop, when she was just a baby. How did she know? Because her parents used to tell her, when she was a teenager, and got embarrassed about it. It was the only thing that she didn't tell Terry in her marriage life. Because she knew that Terry would laugh out loud, roll over or jump like Tom Cruise like a crazy maniac, and couldn't even stop. But she was only a baby, which was alright for any baby out there to do a very nasty thing. Sure, babies didn't know what they were doing those days, because they probably thought their own poop looked like Play-Doh, which most kids always play at kindergarten. But it was a sickening thought as usual, and funny.
The hand was still smeared on the window. Janice had this scary feeling that her new house could be haunted. Who knows? It was the most likely explanation. There was no way that a person, whom she didn't know could do something like this. She sighed, and brought the cleaning products, and wipe the hand stain from the window. She held her breath while cleaning it. She might have brought the nose strip for that matter. But it didn't matter now, because the nose strip that she had worn earlier, while cleaning the hand stain, the smell was still strong, and it seemed to get stronger than expected. It took Janice for a while to clean it off, because of the nasty smell. Then, she went to the bathroom and puked.
The next day, Janice came back to the studio after eating breakfast. And guess what? The hand was still there. She slammed the door, and went back downstairs to the living room. She saw Terry working on his laptop. Besides, he works online at home, which was a good thing because Janice needed someone to support her, while she was doing her work, unlike her mother.
Speaking of mothers, she had forgotten that her mother had planned to check out the new house, that she and Terry had just bought. She stared upstairs, wondering what she was going to do about the hand stain, and not to mention her nude painting.
Janice slumped down on the couch, besides Terry. He looked at her, and said, "It looks like you're having a rough day."
Janice rolled her eyes, and said, "Tell me about it." She noticed that a cup of black coffee was reserved just for Terry. But Janice picked it up from the table, and sipped it. Of course, Terry didn't mind because he knew that Janice had trouble sleeping last night. Because last night, when Janice came back to her bedroom, and Terry still snoring like a tiger, she slept like a baby, and then had a nightmare, where she was in her studio doing the work. Then, all of a sudden, lots of hand stains were appearing everywhere, even her own face. She had screamed all right.
"Is that hand still there?" Terry asked. He figured the hand will not just go away, as if someone doesn't want to give up a fight.
"What do you think?" Janice said. "I mean, I've tried everything. It doesn't make sense. Why would a hand be smeared on that window? Do you think it's a ghost? Sure, I don't believe in that kind of crap. No pun intended." She stopped for a while to see, if Terry was going to laugh at the joke. He didn't laugh. Then she continued, "Don't you think it sounds ridiculous?"
Terry didn't know what else to say. He just looked at his work online, and wanted to forget about it, like he was launching himself into another world.
"Terry, are you listening to me?" Janice said. Terry did listen all right. But he felt that he had enough of the crap already. No pun intended.
"I don't know," Terry finally answered, looking at her. "It could be a ghost for sure. But whose ghost was it? That's what I want to know. And besides, I think that whosoever hand..." He paused, and stared upstairs for a while. Then, he looked back at her, and continued, "Whosoever hand it was, it will not go away."
Janice felt the same thing. Apparently, the smell had not reached their living room yet, which was a relief. But later on, it could get worse. Janice has to find a way to continue her work because at this stage, she couldn't concentrate on it, due to the horrid smell of the hand.
Terry was right. The hand wouldn't go away, anytime soon.
Janice's mother finally reached the new house. She parked her car, and looked at it for a while. She thought it was beautiful, and then she noticed Janice, and Terry were waiting for her outside the entrance. Her arrival might spark hatred for Janice, but this will only be a onetime visit for now. Besides, Janice has to finish her work, and move on to other things like doing the Lord's work. She was planning to change her art style, just to please her mother, as if she had no other choice. It was the only way to stop the unnecessary hindrance from the members of the Christian Life Association, including her mother.
But then again, if she decided to change her art style, what would the critics think? Will she earn money and respect? Will her artistic career go down the drain forever? Like crap? That's what she was afraid of.
"Dear Janice," her mother said, and hugged her only daughter, so tightly that Janice couldn't breathe. So much for the crap that was happening in her studio. She was extremely worried, and scared.
"Hello, Terry," her mother said, looking at him. "You look handsome as ever. The Lord is great. Don't you think?"
"Hi, Mrs. Carlson," Terry said, trying to ignore his mother-in-law's compliment. Of course, he was handsome. A lot of girls dated him back in high school and college, when he was young at the time, before he even met Janice. "How are you?"
"Oh, I'm fine, Terry," Mrs. Carlson said. "But I had a rough day with those people, who do sinful things in Las Vegas. I've been trying to ban adult pornography, you know. There was some convention going on, I believe. Lord, have mercy on their souls." She looked up at the sky, and closed her eyes. She prayed.
Terry was scratching at the back of his head, and looked at Janice, but she didn't look at him. She only stared at her mother.
"Mom," Janice finally spoke after her mother's arrival. "Why don't we just go inside? I think it's starting to rain." The sky looked hazy all right.
"Oh my..." Mrs. Carlson said, feeling the droplets on her hand. "The Lord has just answered my prayer. Hallelujah!" Both Terry and Janice didn't say anything.
Janice had to cook dinner before her mother came. She remembered that her mother cooked very well, and taught herself. She had to thank her for it, even though Mrs. Carlson couldn't approve her art style.
Before eating dinner, Janice thought she could take her mother on a house tour, while Terry went out to buy some wine from a local store. He had forgotten about it, since he was too busy on his work, which was alright for Janice, because she had her mind on the studio, and that the thought of the hand stain made her very irritating.
After seeing all the rooms, there was only one room that Janice tried not to show to her mother. But her mother knew that Janice was an artist, and that she has to have sort of studio to continue her work.
"Janice..." Mrs. Carlson said. "Aren't you going to show me your studio?" Janice was stumped by the idea of showing her. She wished that she had painted something else for her artful career, but it was her choice. It wasn't that bad. It also wasn't a crime to paint a nude woman along with hairy creatures, dancing around her in a merry-go around circle. Her mother didn't see her daughter's work yet. But if she did see it, oh boy, Janice was going to get hell of a round at this one.
"Um... The studio is a bit messy, Mom. I don't think you should see it. Maybe... Next time?"
Her mother thought this thing could happen. After all, she knew very well, what the painting was about. "Look Janice, I don't care what you paint, or do for a living. I've tried to lead you to the path of Christianity, and it seemed that's not enough for you. So, I'm sorry if I've pushed you too hard. I can be a pushover, sometimes, you know."
Janice didn't know what else to say. She sighed. The painting wasn't the only reason, that she couldn't allow her inside the studio. It was that darn, smelly hand.
"Okay, Mom," Janice said. She opened the door, and led her mother into the studio. The room did look a bit messy, and wide. Janice had to cover the window with the curtain, so that the hand wouldn't be noticed. And if that wasn't worse enough, Janice also had to cover her nude painting with a big cloth. Even though the painting may not matter, the smell of the hand was the major problem for Janice. She had to spray the studio several times to ease the bad smell. She hoped it could work.
"Dear Lord," Mrs. Carlson said, sniffing around. "What's that smell?" Great! Janice thought. How was she going to explain the horrid smell from the window? She'll have to come up with something.
"Oh, I think it's just some rat that pooped somewhere in my studio. You know?"
"Dear Janice..." Mrs. Carlson said. She felt a gag on her throat. "I've never thought in my entire life to smell such filth in this house. I used to remember..." She paused, and was about to talk about Janice's childhood experience. But Mrs. Carlson felt that she was going to throw up at any minute now. "Eh... Excuse me, Janice. I have to go to the bathroom." She rushed out from the studio. Janice looked at the window, and sighed.
Janice decided to work on her friend's studio, so Terry and her had to carry the painting back to their SUV. The painting was still heavy though, and that Terry didn't have a problem with it. Janice felt like she could have done this a long time ago. She had wasted her time, trying to work on her own studio at this new home, but the hand wouldn't let her.
They left the house, and Janice can see it from the rear-view mirror. She felt relieved.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Terry meant for Janice to work at her friend's studio. After all, her friend was also an artist, who did work on nude sculptures. Her friend went out on a vacation to the Middle East right now, and she agreed that Janice can continue her work there, while talking on the phone. Janice said, "Yeah, I think so. At least, I don't get to see that stupid hand again. For now..."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Terry said. "But if we come back, do you think it'll still be there?"
Janice didn't want to know. She just wants to finish her work. That was all. She also thought that she and Terry could buy a new house. Everything will be all right, she thought.
But she had a strange feeling that something was not right here. She begins to smell it in the SUV, something very bad. She thought that it could be coming from Terry himself, because he sometimes farts, whenever he drives on a long journey. But no, it wasn't that. It was...
Oh no, she thought. Not again. How? She turned over her shoulder, and noticed the same hand stain, smeared at the back of the SUV window.
"Oh Jesus," Terry said. He can smell it too, while driving. The smell was too strong for him, that he puked on his pants.
Janice looked away from the hand, and covered her mouth very tightly. Then, she noticed something else. This time, it wasn't a hand. Something honked at them.
Janice uncovered her mouth, and shouted, "TERRY! WATCH OUT!" Terry raised his head up, and saw a large truck coming towards their direction. He immediately turned the SUV on the other side of the road. But the road led them to a cliff, surprisingly. Both Terry and Janice screamed.
It was too bad that the Winchesters were killed in a car accident. Mrs. Carlson didn't take the news very lightly. She prayed every day for Janice's soul to rest in peace, including Terry’s. She was at the funeral that day, and used to say, "Janice was a very smart woman, but sometimes she can be wild enough to go on her own ways." It wasn't a bad speech after all. For some reason, Mike didn't like the sound of it.
However, the painting survived miraculously. Some Christians would say this was some sort of sign, except that it wasn't a Christian thing. Mike may not be a Christian at all, but he surely believes in miracles. Such a thing like the painting, could actually survive the crash. He was grateful for it. But the painting wasn't completely finished. What was he going to do about it?
He decided to keep it in his storage room, where all kinds of artwork was stashed due to its incompleteness. Artists these days never had the chance to shine. It was Janice's big moment for her nude painting. But she was dead. Mike couldn't do anything about that part.
He was about to switch off the light, when he smelled something terrible, coming from the storage room itself. He looked around it, and noticed something got smeared on Janice's nude painting. It turned out to be a hand that wouldn't go away.
Next story- Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite